CARBONDALE — Carbondale officially kicked off the holidays Saturday with the 27th annual Lights Fantastic Parade.
Hundreds of celebrants lining U.S. Route 51 were greeted with warmer-than-usual weather, though just cold enough for many to still don hats and blankets as they waited for the cheerful and at times elaborately decorated floats to come down the road.
Five-year-old Shelby Bird sat on her grandfather Kenny Bird’s lap taking selfies as they waited.
“We love it,” “Mary Bird said. “We just like the Christmas atmosphere.” Bird said she and her family have come the last several years to see her grandchildren walk in the parade.
Cinnamon Smith, executive director of Carbondale Tourism, said she has been coming since the beginning. Her father, Wayne Wheeles, was on the original organizing committee for the parade.
Smith said she couldn’t pick a favorite float, even from the last two decades, because she appreciates the time, effort and money it takes just to participate.
“I enjoy seeing the creativeness put forth each year,” she said.
This year Smith said the theme was Polar Express and had about 50 entries in the parade.
Emma Kohler nestled next to her mother, Becca Kohler, lights dancing across their faces, as all Emma’s eyes got big. She seemed amazed as each float came by.
“This is her first one,” Becca Kohler said of her four-year-old daughter. She said they planned to come last year but Emma was sick.
“She was pretty disappointed,” Kohler said. This year, though, Emma was abuzz all week.
Watching from the window of Carbondale Tourism’s office, Smith said she enjoys that families get to come together and have a positive way to start their holiday season.
“It’s just something that makes you feel good,” she said.
This story has been updated to correctly identify Cinnamon Smith's title and the office from which she watched the parade.